This is a guest post written by Bev Gray, CEO of Exhibit Edge, a full-service trade show exhibit and consultation company serving the Virginia, Maryland, DC areas as well as international clients.
When you are at a restaurant, do you get upset when the waiter offers you the specials for that evening? When you go to a movie theater, do you think they are wasting your time showing the previews? When you visit a salon, do you listen to suggestions from your stylist?
Chances are you have come to expect this “upselling” when you visit any of those places. You chose to go out for dinner, so you expect that the restaurant will try to sell you food and are willing to listen to their promotions – same idea for the theater and salon examples. How does this same principle relate to your business?
Attendees of trade show events are there because they chose to be. They know and fully expect to have vendors selling their goods and services, so they are primed and ready to listen to you. How many other marketing venues can you say that your audience is already actively seeking you out? Not many!
Your Hidden Potential’s post “10 Things I Learned about Entrepreneurship” highlights the importance of networking. The concept of getting out of your office and meeting your customers and prospects is one that is lost on many companies. However, a trade show brings them to you in one location, already expecting a sales pitch and open-minded to hearing about your product and your business.
To take advantage of this incredible opportunity, first find a trade show or event in your area. There are websites, such as the Trade Show News Network, that serve as a valuable resource in finding shows in your area specific to your trade. You can also search throughout your local community for other events where you would be able to exhibit.
Next, think of resourceful ways to fund your trade show exhibit. There are costs associated with purchasing space and creating displays. However, if you barter, volunteer, or offer to exchange services, perhaps you could save money. You may also want to consider partnering with a business that complements yours and share space to minimize expenses.
In creating your display, you must be creative and unique. Companies specializing in exhibits, such as ours, are able to work within your budget to create impressionable and memorable displays. You will be up against your competitors at these events, so you must ensure your exhibit captures the attention of the attendees, draws them in, and keeps them at your booth – overlooking the rest of your competition.
Once you are at the event, engage your prospects! You and your staff must be friendly and exciting – the first few seconds an attendee is at your booth will determine if they stay or keep walking. Qualify your leads and gather contact information to be used to follow up with them after the event. Offer a desirable give-away or contest to get this information from them, and then make sure you use it later!
Give out promotional items and materials branded with your colors and logo. Make it something useful, not something they’ll throw away in the nearest trash can or consume during the event. A great model for this is a cleaning company who boasted their environmentally friendly products. To tie in this marketing association, they gave away bamboo plants at their exhibit. Creatively, they were able to keep these to $1 a piece, and it was something that lived on in someone’s home or business as a constant reminder of the “green” commercial cleaning company.
After the event is over, follow up! Make sure you contact those qualified leads you received. Continue any theme you focused on in your display throughout your social media channels. Send e-newsletters to the email addresses you gathered. Refer your prospects to other partners you have which may be able to further meet their needs in other areas. Ask them for referrals. The key here is to take full advantage of your trade show investment!
Are you thinking about exhibiting at a trade show soon? Or, do you have past experience as an exhibitor? Let us know in the comments! We’ll stick around for any questions you may have on trade shows!